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Creating something tangible: 3D Printing & Design workshop helps teachers bring new skills to the classroom

Creating something tangible: 3D Printing & Design workshop helps teachers bring new skills to the classroom

You can usually expect some chatter from students, or the lecturing of an excited teacher when you enter a classroom. But something you don’t always hear is the hum of 3D printers as they turn ideas into a reality.

Those are the sounds that filled the classroom during 3D Printing and Design, a free professional development workshop for teachers who want to incorporate this technology into their own lesson plans. From the drawing board to the final product, teachers learned about 3D design software, how to create and model their own designs, and everything they need to know to bring their ideas to life.


“3D printers are really powerful tools for enabling students or teachers to take control of otherwise uncontrollable or inaccessible decisions,” said workshop instructor Nathan Kenner. Kenner is an engineering and International Baccalaureate personal and professional skills teacher at West High School in Knoxville, Tenn. “For example, if you want to use a 3D printer to teach gears, you can build gears and teach kids how they work with a bunch of options, as opposed to spending a couple hundred dollars to buy examples. If you want kids to have any mechanical or technical experience that usually is economically gated, you can have the kids actually make it and learn from them.”

Throughout the four-hour workshop, teachers were introduced to free modeling software such as TinkerCAD and OnShape, which they used to create 3D designs. The teachers then printed those designs, using either Bambu or Prusa printers, which turned spools of colored filament into works of art.

“These teachers can use the 3D modeling and printers themselves to do more robust, more owned, more authentic learning,” Kenner continued.

Chad Feiock, one of the teachers who attended, is excited to bring what he learned to his classroom. Feiock is an engineering teacher at Anderson County Career & Technical Center.

“I’m a beginner in 3D printing, so I’ll use what I’ve learned here to better inform my students,” Feiock said. “I’m really excited to have the students come up with their own ideas and be able to actually print them off—going from the thought process to the design process, to printing, to having something tangible.”

3D Printing and Design is one of many free workshops being offered by ORAU this summer. These professional development courses will cover a variety of subjects, including lesson planning, student engagement, and new technologies which will help strengthen STEM learning in the classroom. To learn more about the in-person and virtual workshops being offered by ORAU this summer, click here.

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ORAU, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, provides science, health, and workforce solutions that address national priorities and serve the public interest. Through our specialized teams of experts and access to a consortium of more than 150 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local, and commercial customers to provide innovative scientific and technical solutions and help advance their missions. ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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